Since 2003 the Waltham Community Day Center has become a vital and growing resource for Waltham.
On a typical day up to 60 guests spend time at the Center. In 2009, we served 600 guests, many of which continue to help us as volunteers at the Day Center.
Major challenges faced by our guests vary. About 70 percent are homeless, and of these, 80 percent are living in shelters and 20 percent are living on the street. All live below the poverty level with low or no income. About a third have some employment, mostly part-time. We see a fair amount of disabilities, including mental illness and substance abuse problems.
We keep track of the race and ethnicity of our guests for reporting reasons, and we have observed that the statistics vary from year to year for reasons we don't always understand. Most guests are caucasian and hispanic with other races represented roughy along population percentages. About 65 percent are men and 35 percent women, and we are seeing a rise in the number of women.
In addition, we are fortunate to have the help of about 50 volunteers, which include students, local residents, and many of these are guests or former guests.
"Ann" was crocheting and waiting for a friend, when I struck up a conversation with her. I discovered that Ann was a nurse and is now living in a local shelter because of an abusive husband. She waited until her youngest was out of elementary school before she left the home. She was later diagnoses with PTSD, depression and anxiety. Her behavior was so erratic that she lost her job. When she became homeless, she lived wherever she could--with family, friends and then the nearby cemetery. Since she has been on medication and receiving services, she feels she might be able to apply for a job.
I noticed "Bob" yesterday because he was sitting by himself and wasn't talking to anyone. I later discovered that Bob was getting his courage to speak to me for help. He is 62 years old and had been on his own since he was 16, after his mother died. Bob is fiercely independent, but suffers from dyslexia, and can't read and write. Bob described himself as being slow. He lives in a rooming house and his rent is $560per month. Since his rent is more than 50% above his income of $730, he qualifies for public housing. Bob needed help to fill out the voluminous amount of paperwork.